“PhDs are self-directed and can be extremely overwhelming.” – 4th Year PhD student
What you can learn here?
- There is a crisis in mental and emotional well-being for PhD students (Page 1)
- Our project confirms these findings and shows that doing well and being well is a rare event (Page 2)
- How our Grid™ approach is able to help students a practical do better and fuels self-empowerment (Page 3-5)
- Practical tips to raise your productivity and support your well-being as a PhD student (Page 6)
- 3 key insights that will be useful for Phd supervisors, research department heads and graduate programme directors (Page 6)
- Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid™ inventor perspective on how Grid™ can aid during PhD study/work (Page 6)
Support for PhD students needs attention
Being a PhD student presents many challenges that develop one’s intellectual independence as well as an opportunity to build skills that are highly valued by employers as well as academia, such as:
- Mastering technical skills and know-how to run experiments.
- Building relationships.
- Preparing oneself for the next career step.
- Being able to convert ideas into tangible results.
- Learning to look after one’s mental, physical and emotional welfare.
However, while the opportunity is there, the necessary support, appropriate framework, simple and easy structure to build the right habits and key know-how is often missing.
“Here in this country, I do not have the two main pillars of support for me, which are family and friends.” – 2nd Year PhD student.
Crisis in mental and emotional well-being for PhD students is well documented, what’s missing are solutions!
Nature a leading scientific journal published an editorial in Nov 2019 with a headline “The mental health of PhD researchers demands urgent attention.” It called for a major change in terms of workplace culture to counter the rising anxiety and depression figures reported in graduate students across the world. In another survey carried out in the UK by Advanced HE over 50,000 graduate students were generally positive about their PhD experience and yet 8.5/10 were concerned with their anxiety levels.
These and many other articles and studies into the problem raise key questions including:
- What actions could Universities and departments take?
- At what level within the institution is action is best taken and what proves effective in the short, mid and long-term?
- How could effective intervention be constructed to engage students to play an active role in their well-being?
Intervention: MTC Departamental Grid™ Workshop
This is what I set out to probe in collaboration with Prof. Peter Haynes from Imperial College London Materials Department who sponsored the workshop. To start small, we organised an afternoon workshop inviting PhD students from years 1-3 to share the Grid™ approach and interviews attendees ahead of the day to gather some insights about their experience. One need not be a Grid™ adopter to extract a rich and powerful framework for productivity on healthy terms and that is our mission at MTC.
Below we profile three students from the session and their immediate feedback. As the workshop took place right before Covid-19 struck, they were invited to contribute personal case studies so that other students can learn from their experience as much as I can as Grid™ inventor.
- Sample: 10 invited students self-selected
- Pre Workshop Survey
- Half-day workshop delivered in person
- Post Workshop Feedback and Follow up at 4, 8 and 12 weeks
Continue reading to discover
- What we learned from PhD students when it comes to their needs for support (Page 2)
- Explore 3 individual case studies to learn how students benefited from the Grid™ approach (Page 3-5)
- Pick up practical tips for your productivity and wellbeing if you’re a PhD student (Page 6)
- Learn 3 powerful insights if you’re a PhD supervisor, departmental head and graduate programme director (Page 6)
- Why the Grid™ is a useful tool in this context from Grid™ inventor, Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier (Page 6)